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Biden: US 'stands in solidarity' with Greece

By Derek Gatopoulos

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Dec. 5 2011 5:43 a.m. MST

ATHENS, Greece — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Greek political leaders Monday his government is "standing with you in solidarity," at the start of a crucial week for the future of the debt-saddled eurozone.

Biden, who traveled from Turkey, met with President Karolos Papoulias before starting talks with new Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and leaders of the main parties backing the country's new coalition government.

"It is overwhelmingly in the interest of the United States that Greece work its way through this financial crisis and that it remain a strong and vital part of the European Union," Biden said before beginning talks with Papademos.

Last week, the United States joined a coordinated effort by global central banks to provide relief to banks in the eurozone.

The eurozone debt crisis began in Greece two years ago, and the country is currently negotiating the terms of a second, massive bailout package from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.

"We are standing with you in solidarity as you meet some very difficult requirements from the IMF and European Union in this very difficult times," Biden said.

"And we stand prepared to help you in any way we can."

The new debt deal involves lengthy negotiations with banks to accept voluntary losses on Greek government bonds.

European leaders will meet at a summit Friday on the eurozone — alarmed by surging borrowing costs among its vulnerable members.

Ahead of that summit, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is traveling to Germany, France and Italy for talks with top European officials.

Papademos was appointed to head the Greek coalition government last month, backed by the majority and rival conservative party.

He said discussions with Biden would also include developments in the Balkans, north Africa and Cyprus. The war-divided island of Cyprus is at odds with nearby Turkey over plans to exploit undersea oil and gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean. The plan is backed by Israel and Greece.

"These are areas where cooperation between the U.S. and Greece can play an important role in preserving stability and security," Papademos said.

Biden is to meet later Monday with Socialist leader George Papandreou, who stepped down as prime minister last month, as well as conservative leader Antonis Samaras.

He is due to return to the United States after ending his visit to Athens later in the day.

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